Opposition parties react to the Harper government’s “Economic ‘Inaction’ Plan”

·Politics Reporter

Even before Finance Minister Jim Flaherty finished his introduction of Budget 2013 in the House of Commons, on Thursday, the opposition parties were, well, opposing.

The budget, dubbed Economic Action Plan 2013, had modest spending increases but for the most part reallocates monies with a focus on skills training and job creation.

"This plan takes action in three important areas," Flaherty told Parliament.

"It introduces the Canada Job grant. A bold new initiative to transform the way we provide skills training to ensure we connect Canadians with available jobs. It introduces a new Building Canada plan, the largest and longest federal investment in building roads, bridges and public transit in Canadian history.

"And it introduces a plan to assist our manufacturers and other businesses as they innovate to compete in the global economy."

[ Related: Jim Flaherty introduces Budget 2013, on track to balance budget by 2015 ]

A statement from the Liberal Party, calls EAP 2013 an 'inaction' plan:

“This budget should be renamed the Economic ‘Inaction’ Plan for all the good it will do Canadians,” said Liberal Leader Bob Rae. “Not only have the Conservatives offered no new money for skills training, infrastructure and First Nations’ education, but it is clear that they don’t intend to take any tangible action on the key challenges facing Canadian families, like youth unemployment, and growing levels of income inequality and household debt.”

Despite the Conservatives’ claim that training is the most pressing issue of our time, Budget 2013 cuts new infrastructure funding and on training freezes it at 2007 pre-recession levels. Furthermore, any new trinkets in Budget 2013 are too small to kick-start the economy and create new jobs.

“Canada’s job market still hasn’t recovered from the recession,” said Liberal Finance critic Scott Brison. “It’s even more difficult for young Canadians to find work with an employment rate that is now five points worse than it was before the recession. Budget 2013 should have included a concrete strategy to create new jobs for young Canadians instead of focusing its plan on advertising.”

[ Related: 5 ways the federal budget may affect you ]

The NDP accuses the Harper government of "playing a shell game."

Stephen Harper promised to focus on jobs, but instead he's ploughing ahead with job-killing austerity cuts and playing a shell game with skills training money.

Conservatives not only fail to address the specific challenges faced by Aboriginal peoples, they introduce a regressive new workfare program for First Nation communities.

Despite the fact that there are still 300 000 more unemployed people than before the recession, the Conservatives’ Budget 2013 cuts billions in infrastructure programs and fails to introduce new measures to create jobs.

“There is nothing in this budget to prepare Canada for a 21st-century economy. The Conservatives are leaving a huge environmental, social and fiscal debt to our children,” [said NDP leader Thomas] Mulcair.

“I am very disappointed that Mr. Harper has walked away from building a new more respectful relationship with First Nations. The budget measures for these communities reveal a paternalistic and insulting approach,” added the leader of the NDP.

The NDP also reminded that last year, Conservatives predicted economic growth that never came – overestimating growth figures by over 35% and failing to contain the current account deficit – which has now reached $67 billion.

And Elizabeth May and the Green Party offered a more balanced appraisal:

The Green Party of Canada notes a distinct change in the 2013 budget. “It is a matter of tone more than substance, but the jackboot style of Budget 2012 – the 'we will build pipelines and the environment be damned' tone – is replaced with a kinder, gentler message. This budget shows a sensitivity on issues where the Harper Conservatives have been repeatedly hammered,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

There is money for the burial of our veterans and $8 million for the restoration of Massey Hall. “Public outcry over the savaging of fisheries habitat has lead to a small sop this time around -- $10 million over 2 years to work with local conservation groups to improve fish habitat –and a salmon conservation stamp,” said May.

“The problem with the budget documents is that they are increasingly vague documents. We no longer receive the appendices with the total budget numbers for departments. So, is the total envelope going up or down? Who knows?” asked May.

What we will not know until we see the implementing legislation is how many egregious measures will be rammed through the House in a 2013 Omnibus bill that claims to derive its legitimacy from this budget,” said May.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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